I was one of the December graduates of 2008, during the peak of the financial crisis. Even the dean of students last words where: “You are graduating in the worst time of our country.” And let’s be honest, I wasn’t the ideal student to many of my teachers, so I did not have a lot of confidence as a fresh alumni. Under the most uncommon circumstances, I had an internship waiting for me.
In this new time of communication, the idea of social networking has become an everyday use for anyone. One of the most valuable things I learned at CCS was the idea of networking. This is such an important and crucial skill that ALL students should learn and practice because it will start your career!
I was browsing Facebook while taking a break from a term paper I was writing for an Art history class; I had joined a group called “Footwear design” after my summer internship at Nike. Ever since then, I’ve been meeting new up-and-coming designers both student and professional alike. I noticed that there was a subject line that read “Footwear design internship in France.” I read the description and instantly sent my portfolio in. I received feedback a few hours later inviting me to come out to France to design for Salomon Sports Inc. It wasn’t a permanent gig, but it was the first step in the door.
During the internship, I had to adapt myself to not only to the culture, but also to the French design language. It was an honor to be the first American intern within the footwear design team, but this also created more pressure to prove myself.
When the six-month period was coming to an end, I had to start “hunting” again. Due to a cut back in finances, Salomon was unable to offer me anything permanent. This meant that I would have to return to the states and start once again from square one. So, I searched the Internet and found a few job offers across Europe. On a side note, I wanted to stay in Europe for as long as I could, I mean, the diverse cultures, food, music, art - who wouldn’t!
Lucky for me, I found a few freshly posted design jobs. I had one interview in London (which I was over qualified for) and another in Germany for Adidas. The interview was something I cannot describe in detail, but let’s just say it was something I never would have expected. Since I did not know where my future was going, I decided to take control of my fate one last time and make a backpacking trip across 3 countries, Italy, France and Spain. I took the trip not only for inspiration, but also since I did not know if this would be my last time in Europe. On my last day of work at Salomon, I came back to my flat and started packing away for the trip, just then the phone rang. My heart pumped and I was already stumbling on my words. I swear I went deaf when HR told me I got the job. I almost had to ask him twice to make sure he was being serious. So excited about my news, my flat mates took me out for a night of celebration.
So, currently I am a Junior Footwear Designer for Adidas in the Outdoors category in Germany. I design anything ranging from hiking boots, to water sports that including canoeing. I also get to dive into the accessories that align with both footwear and apparel.
My job is the best that anyone in my position could ask for, especially for a fresh out of college kid. In my first year I’ve already traveled to 6 different countries, made tons of friends of all different cultures, and picked up 2 new languages. My team is all of German decent, so their design process is a little different to the one I was taught. This is a great advantage though since we can bounce methods and ideas off each other more consistently. Every day is something new and different, and there’s never repetition. We work hard but, also play hard.
I think one of the most amazing things I’ve learned working within a different culture is how designers of diverse heritages take an inspiration source and translate it into a design language. European design has an emotional base that focuses primarily on the thoughts and feelings the consumers experience with a product. It’s not about placing an object on a shelf in a department store; it’s about how a product plays a particular role in someone’s life. How it improves it and makes them feel more complete. It’s one of those things you can only notice when you’re walking around the streets of any major European city and see the reflections of society breathe within products both modern and ancient. It sounds a little philosophical, but sometimes you have to come up with your own conclusions when most of the greatest creators have passed on.
What inspires me? My surroundings. Whether it’s the music I hear on the streets being played by the locals, the architecture or the street fashion. It’s everything, it’s the lines and curves of a particular building or the color of a particular garment. I choose not to sell myself short by only sticking to one thing; I find it more beneficial to keep an open mind. It works both in and out of the office.
So this is my story, I know it’s long and may sound made up, but it’s based on 100% truth! I can’t believe how unexpected life can be. So, my advice for anyone would be to NOT plan your future by any sort of standards that are given to you. Create your own standards to live your future now.
And most importantly; don’t sell yourself short. Be as open minded as you can be, no one ever moved forward by standing still.
- Junior Footwear Designer